Hugar – Varða album review

Hugar’s second LP – Varða is simply delightful. Bergur Þórisson and Pétur Jónsson made record that not only sounds perfect. I would even say it throbs with emotions. This is a reflective and melancholic album. Sometimes very ascetic but on the other hand striking with great power. Fantastic compositions, rich sounds of guitars, brass and string section, subtle electronics and attention to details. This is why, in my opinion, Varða stands amongs the best albums released this year in Iceland.

Read the review in Polish

First impression

I have not heard such a good, touching and addictive album for a long time. Hugar’s Varða drove me back into the seat. From the first sounds of Grandi you can feel incredible power and passion. But also enormous musical and production artistry. It’s an album filled with atmosphere. I would call it – the climate of Iceland. Because it reminds me of the unforgettable landscapes of the Island, the fresh, cool breeze from the ocean, the sun shining over glaciers, and above all a smile, joy and peace of mind. This is what Varða sounds like to me.

I don’t want to put Hugar into any genre, it’s almost impossible. Varða defies labels, traveling from post-rock through ambient to neo-classic. From the delicate sounds of the piano, to the majestic brass (Bergur plays the trombone!), whose sound I love and it always touches me deeply, fantastic string section, live drums to acoustic and electric guitars…

The best that happened in music

The album is filled with the echoes of the best that has happened in the music of the last few decades. Atlavik with a light guitar theme evoking the memory of Agaetis Byrjun. Or Frost, with its hypnotic, melancholic atmosphere reminding Untitled album ( ). However, they’re not copying anything, no way! Hugar are virtuosos! Their brilliant compositions gain weight with every minute. They’re like clouds flowing in the sky, changing their shapes and colors, casting shadow and transmitting rays of light, throwing thunders and dissolving in the fog. At other times, they give us  delicate musical miniatures played on the pian. You can feel the atmosphere of intimacy. Hear gently pressed keys, sounds of moving hands and artists taking breath (Dýpi, Loft or Fell).

On Varða, next to each other are two songs that we already know from the single announcing the release of Hugar. Ró and Orój were juxtaposed on the basis of double contrast – sound and meaning. Ró is calm. The quiet, minimalistic composition played on the piano also symbolizes the order. While Orój (means anxiety) is the equivalent of disorder. Bergur and Pétur wanted to convey their own experience of life in Iceland – everyday life, in which man meets the power of nature in its extreme faces.

The endless journey

Varða means cairn. Small stones stacked on top of each other, pointing the way. But as the artists say, it’s not about the direction. Rather, the endless free journey on which the album takes us. If I were to be tempted to interpret my own title, I would say contrary to the authors that the album is not a collection of songs, each of which is a separate mound… It’s rather a very precisely arranged construction constituting one whole. Each of the 14 compositions is an indispensable element of it. The work of Bergur and Pétur is fantastic. Recorded with such high care and attention to the smallest details. Maybe that’s why the release of the next album took the artists as many as 5 long years. However, I have no doubt that it was worth waiting. Varða contains almost 50 minutes of carefully arranged soundtrack, in which emotions constantly pulsate until the real, final explosion (Year). It’s just an amazing album!


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